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Archive for the ‘Little White Sauce’ Category

I often cook up a large batch of food on Sunday to last me for the week, and this Sunday I craved lasagna with a twist.  Rummaging for inspiration through my fridge, I happened upon an acorn and butternut squash.  Squash is one of my favourite vegetables, and, as winter approaches, it is one of the few you can find at the market.  The beauty of this vegetable is the sweetness and versatility of its flesh.  This recipe from the Food Network was receiving rave reviews, so I decided to give it a go.

I felt the recipe needed garlic as well as a new flavour to balance the sweetness of the butternut puree, so as an experiment, I introduced arugula to offer a bitter contrast.  The original recipe only used mozzarella and Parmesan, but I love ricotta so included it with the cheese layer.  The final lasagna was enticing: the 15 minutes of letting the lasagna sit was torture as the aromas of pesto and cheese wafted through my apartment.   And I can attest that the zesty arugula balanced the mellow squash beautifully!

Butternut Squash and Arugula Lasagna

(serves 12)

 

Ingredients:

BUTTERNUT SQUASH PUREE

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 clove of garlic, minced

1.5 to 2 pounds of butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1-inch cubes

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup vegetable stock
 
PESTO BECHAMEL

1/4 cup butter

1 clove garlic, minced

1/4 cup flour

1 litre (4 cups) milk

2 bay leaves

Generous pinch nutmeg

1 cup lightly packed fresh basil leaves (or a few tablespoons of pesto)
 
REST OF LASAGNA

12 spinach lasagna noodles (either fresh no-boil or pre-boiled)

2 cups packed arugula

2 1/2 cups mozzerella cheese

2 cups ricotta cheese

1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
 
Directions:

To make the butternut puree, heat the oil in a heavy skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the garlic and saute until fragrant.  Add the squash and toss to coat.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Pour the broth into the skillet, cover, and simmer until the squash is tender, stirring occasionally.  Cool slightly and then transfer the squash and any remaining liquid to a food processor and blend until smooth.  Season the squash puree with more salt and pepper to taste. Set the puree aside.

To make the pesto bechamel, melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat.  Add the garlic and flour and whisk until slightly brown.  Gradually whisk in the milk and add the bay leaves.  Bring to a boil over medium-high heat.  Reduce the heat and simmer until the sauce thickens slightly, whisking often, about 5 minutes. Whisk in the nutmeg.  Allow the bechamel to cool slightly.  Transfer a cup or two of the sauce to a blender.  Add the basil and blend until smooth.  Return the basil sauce to the sauce in the pan and stir to blend. Season the sauce with salt and pepper to taste.

To assemble the lasagna, preheat the oven to 375 Fahrenheit.  Lightly butter a 13x9x2 inch baking dish.  Spread 3/4 cup of the bechamel over the prepared baking dish.  Arrange 3 lasagna noodles on the bottom of the pan.  Spread 1/3 of the squash puree over the noodles. Sprinkle with 1/4 of the mozzerella cheese, 1/4 of the ricotta, and 1 cup of arugula.  Drizzle 1/2 cup basil bechamel over the noodles.  Repeat layering 3 more times, including the other cup of arugula on the 3rd of 4 layers.

Tightly cover the baking dish with foil and bake the lasagna for 40 minutes.  Sprinkle the remaining mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses over the lasagna.  Continue baking uncovered until the sauce bubbles and the top is golden, 15 minutes longer.  Let the lasagna stand 15 minutes before serving.

Bon appetit!

– Catherine

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Falls

Beulach Ban falls

A few weekends ago, I visited Cape Breton with my sister and my friend Alex.  The colours were just past their peak, although still vibrant.  We stopped a few places along the Cabot Trail to take in all her splendour.  The skyline trail led us through spruce groves before opening to a magnificent view of the Gulf of St. Lawrence.  At MacIntosh Brook, we strolled through maple forests beside a babbling brook to a waterfall. We ventured down a small gravel road to the beautiful Beulach Ban Falls.  Ever searching for the perfect picnic spot, we lunched at the rocky headland on Green Cove, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.  At Franey, we climbed like mountain goats to a small look-out perched on a steep cliff, with lovely views of the Clyburn River Canyon and the coast.

Towards the Atlantic Ocean at Freney

We spent the night in Pleasant Bay, a lovely fishing village halfway around the Cabot Trail.  Having dallied to arrive, the only restaurant still open was the Pleasant Bay motel.  The dining room was modest, but the kitchen was a delight with delicious, yet simple Maritime fare.  We each started with a bowl of chowder – creamy with a generous serving of seafood.  La piece de resistance, however, was the fish and chips: crispy batter around succulent haddock, cooked to perfection served with tangy coleslaw and home fries.

Since visiting Pleasant Bay, I have tried to recreate my taste experience.  I’m still brainstorming on how best to create homemade fish and chips without a deep-fryer, but with winter descending, this has given me the perfect excuse to experiment with chowders.  Inspired by cans in the pantry, this corn and salmon chowder was hearty, yet refreshing with the added dill.

Salmon and corn chowder

Salmon and Corn Chowder

(serves 6 bowls)

Ingredients

2 tablespoons butter

2 onions, diced

2 cloves of garlic, minced

4 potatoes, peeled and diced

2 cans kernel corn, drained and rinsed

4 cups chicken broth

2 bay leaves

1 1/2 cups milk

2 tablespoons flour

Generous dash of tobasco

2 cans of salmon, drained and finely mashed (I like my soup infused with salmon – if you wanted to let the corn shine through, one can would suffice)

1/4 cup fresh dill, chopped plus more for garnish

Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Saute the onions and garlic in the butter.  Stir in the potatoes and saute for another five minutes, and then stir in the broth, corn, and bay leaves.  Simmer for 15 minutes or until potatoes are tender.

Throughly mix the flour into the milk before adding it to the chowder base. Return the soup to a simmer and allow to thicken, about five minutes.  Add the tobasco, salmon, dill, and salt and pepper. Adjust the seasoning to your taste.  Serve, garnished with extra chopped dill.  Delicious served with a crusty piece of bread!

– Catherine

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Unsurprisingly, if I have not gone shopping in over a week, my dinner pickings tend to be slim.  Friday evening was one such occasion.  As I eyed my wilting vegetables and containers of leftovers, I wondered whether Thai take-out might be a smarter idea.  After some deliberation, my Scottish frugality won out over my laziness, and I decided to throw together a refrigerator pasta.

This turned out to be a delicious idea.  I was in the mood for something creamy, so I went for a one-pot creamy pasta.  I had some ground beef leftover from tacos earlier this week, which inspired me to give my bechamel a little kick using Worcester sauce and mustard.  And to I threw in a few vegetables that needed eating. Less than half an hour later, I sat down to a bowl of creamy pasta that could have fooled me was leftover-inspired.

Creamy penne with ground beef and vegetables  (aka refrigerator pasta)

(4 servings)

Ingredients:

1/2 pound whole grain penne

Generous handful of peas

2-3 generous handfuls of spinach

2 tablespoons butter

1 clove garlic, minced

1 red pepper, chopped (or any other veggies in your fridge that need eating – mushrooms and zucchini would be particularly delicious)

2 tablespoons flour

2 cups milk

1 bay leaf

Splash of Worcester sauce (plus more to taste)

1 teaspoon mustard powder

Salt and pepper

1/4 cup parmesan cheese

1-2 cups of leftover ground beef

Directions:

Bring a large pot of  salted water to a boil and cook penne to package directions.  One minute before you are finished cooking, add the peas and spinach. Drain into a colander.

Saute the garlic and red pepper in the butter.  Whisk in the flour and continue to cook for another minute.  Whisk in the milk, and add the bay leaf, Worcester sauce, mustard powder, and salt and pepper.  Stirring occasionally, bring the bechamel to a gentle simmer.  Allow the sauce to simmer until thickened slightly.  Taste and modify seasoning to your liking.  Toss in the parmesan, ground beef, and pasta.

Bon appetit!

– Catherine

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Family dinners at the cottage are often more exciting than one bargains for.  Earlier this spring, my grandmother was given a whole frozen Arctic char.  She decided that the occasion to serve it would be for her 63rd wedding anniversary.  The dilemma was how to cook the fish?  No one in my family had ever attempted to cook a whole fish before, and certainly not a beautiful large Arctic char!

On their 63rd wedding anniversary, my grandparents enjoying an evening swim!

We decided to try to poach it.  My mother dug up from her basement, a dusty fish poacher given to her as a wedding gift over two decades ago (never once used).  I was to look up a recipe, and chose Martha Stewart’s court-bouillon recipe for poached salmon.  It looked simple, yet flavourful using fresh spring ingredients.  And the Arctic char would add the Canadian twist!

Cooking the fish proved to be more exciting than expected.  Our first excitement came when we realized I had forgotten the recipe at the grocery store.  Then, as it thawed,  we discovered it had yet to be gutted (my uncle saved us here).  Finally, half way through the poaching, my sister scraped the crown of her foot on a rock covered with zebra mussels. She suffered a series of cuts, but more seriously, a gash that proved to need stitches!  Realizing emergency might take a while, we decided to enjoy the fish and chocolate zucchini cake before taking my sister into town for stitches.  But really, what would a special dinner be at the cottage sans adventure?

The fish itself was delicious – succulent, flavourful, and soft – the 14 of us polished it off nicely.  Indeed, my mother thought it was so delicious that she decided to cook it the following week for a dinner party!

A feast of Arctic Char!

Poached Arctic Char

(serves 12-15)

Ingredients

1 bottle dry white wine

1/2 fresh fennel, sliced

2 leeks, white and pale-green parts only, sliced

2 carrots, sliced

1 lemon, sliced

1 teaspoon salt

3 bay leaves

1 bouquet garni (1 bunch fresh flat-leaf parsley and 1 bunch thyme, tied together)

1/2 teaspoon peppercorns

Water

1 large Arctic char, between 6-8 pounds, gutted (salmon substitutes beautifully)

Directions:

Set the poacher diagonally over the stove so it touches two burners.  Place all the ingredients for the court-bouillon into the fish poacher.  Add water until the fish poacher is about 3/5th full.  Simmer for 30 minutes.

Gently lower the Arctic char into the court-bouillon.  Cook at a bare simmer for about 20 minutes.  Slide two wooden spoons through each handle of the rack, and lift it to remove the fish.  Serve on its own or with a creamy dill sauce.  (Be sure to freeze the stalk for another dish.) Poached Arctic char is perfect for special occasions!

– Catherine

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For me, the splendour of cooking during the summer stems from an abundance of fresh herbs.  Be it basil or thyme, chives or parsley, dill or mint, the immediate burst of flavour is ever a delight.  As a child, I petitioned my mother for years to plant a herb garden, which she did.  Ever since, it has been a feature in our garden and we are spoiled throughout the summer by our potted herbs.

Spoiled by a selection of herbs from our garden: parsley, garlic and common chives, blooming thyme, dill, and green and purple basil!d

This week, Ottawa has been steamy – hitting over 30 degrees celsius most days.  After my daily 30 km commute, I am often ready for light fare that is simultaneously filling and tasting of summer.  Inspired by Silverpalate, my family has long enjoyed this pasta recipe that screams summer.  Delicate angel hair pasta is coated in a creamy bechamel, infused with a medley of fresh herbs and complemented by spring asparagus and soft peas.  The beauty of this dish comes from its versatility – any combination of herbs will do! So on Monday, craving a summery meal, I walked around our garden picking a generous handful of fresh herbs to whip up this dish.  Served with ripe tomatoes and the last-of-the-season strawberries in a spinach salad, this was truly a meal to savour!

Angel Hair Pasta with Fresh Herbs

(Serves 6)

 

Ingredients:

1 box of angel hair pasta (about 350 grams) – I used whole wheat and it was delicious

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons flour

2 cups of milk

1/2 clove garlic, finely chopped

Salt and pepper to taste

About 1/3 to 1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese

1 bunch of asparagus, ends removed, sliced into 1 inch pieces

2 cups of frozen peas

2 cups of any fresh herb combination, finely chopped (recommended include basil, parsley, dill, thyme, chives, oregano, and coriander)

 

Directions:

Cook the angel hair pasta al dente in a large pot of salted water.  Blanch the asparagus and peas with the pasta for the last 90 seconds of cooking.

Melt the butter in a large saucepan.  Stir in the flour and garlic and cook until bubbly and fragrant.  Whisk in the milk.  Bring the bechamel to a simmer, reducing for 3-5 minutes.  Season to your liking with salt and pepper.  Remove the cream sauce from the heat, and gently stir in the Parmesan and fresh herbs.  Toss the pasta and vegetables to coat.  Divine served with fresh tomatoes!

 

– Catherine

 

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The snow is finally all gone in Halifax.  I saw crocuses in bloom today, a sure sign spring is coming.  There is nothing like pesto and asparagus to mark one’s excitement for spring!  (I confess that unlike Sitelle, I have given into the gorgeous looking and tasting asparagus from Mexico).  Pesto pasta is one of my absolutely favorite meals, and one can always count on roasted vegetables to brighten any pasta.  When produce is plentiful, grilling the veggies over the barbecue adds another level of complexity to the dish, but until summer hits, the oven does a respectable job.

This is another dish that uses, as my mother likes to call it, “the little white sauce”.  Like its namesake, this simple béchamel is the perfect versatile base for so many dishes: Add a few cups of cheddar for macaroni and cheese, mustard to make it devilish, or mushrooms and sherry for a delicious mushroom sauce.  Usually I have a few cubes of frozen pesto that I throw into the little white sauce, but tonight I used fresh – a delicate almond romano parsley pesto!

Pesto Pasta with Caremelized Onions, Roasted Asparagus, and Zucchini

(4 servings)

Ingredients:

Roasted Vegetables:

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 teaspoon chopped garlic

1 zucchini, sliced

1 red onion, sliced

1 bunch asparagus, bottom part of stalk snapped off, cut into 2 inch segments

2 tomatoes, cut into eight wedges

Pesto Pasta:

300 grams whole wheat penne pasta

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons flour

1 generous cup milk

Salt and Pepper

¼ cup pesto (https://gourmeh.wordpress.com/2011/03/13/almond-romano-parsley-pesto/)

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.  Toss the veggies in the olive oil and garlic, and place on a tray.  Roast for 20 minutes or until tender.

Meanwhile, boil salted water, cook until al dente, and drain the pasta.  In a large saucepan, melt the butter and flour over medium heat.  Allow the roux to bubble for a few minutes, until almost fragrant.  Whisk in the milk and bring the sauce to a boil.  Simmer for two or three minutes, or until thickened.  Season with salt and pepper.  Stir in the pesto, followed by the roast veggies and pasta.  Toss until the pesto sauce evenly coats the pasta.  Enjoy!

–       Catherine

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One night over Reading Week, after a long day of skiing with my sister and cousins, we made dinner for our parents. To jazz up our salmon, we decided to cook a creamy dill sauce. My cousin Dan expertly prepared the salmon, and my cousin Annie meticulously whisked away at the stove as I threw things into the pot. The recipe itself was an experiment, but the outcome was delicious: the delicate creamy dill sauce beautifully complementing the lemon-infused salmon.

As I write this, I am eating vegetarian for the month (adventures forthcoming) – but when I return to this fish, this will certainly be a repeatable menu item!

 

Salmon with Creamy Dill Sauce
(8 servings)
 

Ingredients:
8 salmon fillets
2 lemons
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 ½ cups milk
Splash of white wine
A few dashes of Worcester sauce
1/3 cup finely chopped dill
 

Directions:
Preheat the oven to broil (use the top element). Place the salmon fillets on a rack, and cover with thin lemon slices. Top with freshly ground salt and pepper to taste. Broil salmon for 10 minutes or until salmon begins to flake.

Meanwhile, create a roux in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in the milk, the white wine, Worcester sauce, and salt and pepper to taste. Bring the béchamel to a boil, and allow to reduce gently for 3-4 minutes. Ideally, your sauce should thickly coat the back of a spoon. Remove from heat and gently stir in the dill.

Serve the salmon with the lemon slices intact – they should have caramelized beautifully. Spoon the delicate dill sauce over the salmon and enjoy!

– Catherine

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